Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today again to address Bill C-55 at third reading.
Unlike the government, the New Democratic Party commitment to preserving our culture in the face of American aggression is solid. We support this bill. We support Canadian culture.
We are not happy with the reported government attempts, including its last minute amendment, to delay the proclamation of this bill. We are suspicious that the government will negotiate our culture away behind closed doors, much as the Mulroney Conservatives did in the free trade agreement.
We want stronger cultural protection under NAFTA, under the FTA, under the WTO and under every trade agreement that Canada is party to. These are not my thoughts alone.
I think it is important for us to understand the feelings of Canadians around this bill and about their opinions relating to the protection of cultural from Canadian foreign trade deals.
In the last week of February the standing committee on heritage toured Canada to seek input from interested Canadians on cultural policy and on such issues as Bill C-55. I think it is fitting for me to include some of these comments in this presentation. Anne Manuel from St. John's on February 22 said:
I'm not sure if everyone is familiar with this [bill]. Basically what it is to do, if everything works as planned, is prevent split-run magazines. Currently there are magazines like Sports Illustrated coming out of the United States that have set sizes for their advertising so that when they send the magazine into Canada, all they do is approach an advertiser and say, hey, we've got a half-page ad here, let's slip that Canadian ad right in there. They've already paid for the material to the freelance writer. They've already paid the managing editors and the editors to make sure the article looks perfect, and the photographer to make sure the photo looks perfect. They've already done all of that, so all the bills are paid.
Then they approach Canadian advertisers and they say, well, let's slip that Canadian ad in there and make Canadians think that this is a Canadian magazine”. That's cheating, and that's not helping culture in Canada. That's the sort of thing that really does need federal support desperately. We need the federal government to jump in and say that the foreign publishers advertising services act is a good thing. That's where I really support it.
Mr. Andrew Terris of Halifax is the chair of the Nova Scotia Cultural Network. I think he said it best of many of the presenters who expressed concern over the enormous foreign control of our cultural industries:
Here's what we don't control: 70% of the music on Canadian radio stations is foreign; 60% of all English language television programming is foreign; 70% of the Canadian book market is imported. We don't control 83% of the news stand market for magazines; 84% of the retail sales of sound recordings; 95% of feature films screened in Canadian theatres; 86% of prime time English language drama on Canadian television; and 75% of prime time drama on French language television.
His final comment was that we are an occupied country.
We all know that the Americans would never accept these kinds of numbers in their market. It is imperative that the government of this country take a very strong stand on these issues. These have implications in terms of funding for culture, technology, issues of trade liberalization, globalization, demographics and the role of the federal government. This is the central issue in terms of cultural policy in this country.
In Halifax we heard from Mr. James Lorimer of the Formac Publishing Company. He made some important observations regarding book and magazine publishing. He noted that Canadians are constantly being pushed to the edge by American products.
In book publishing there has been this slow, sort of stealthy retreat from a tough policy that was actually put in place by the Conservative government when Marcel Masse was the minister of communications. By far the biggest book publishing company in Canada is owned by Bertelsmann. The federal government has just allowed this to go ahead in the face of a policy that is supposed to prevent indirect takeovers, to stand in the way of indirect takeovers.
Mr. Lorimer continues to say that on the magazine side, we can see what the Americans are doing with respect to Bill C-55. They are again trying to keep that space open for themselves. They are trying to hold back Canadian publishing in the magazine industry.
Witness after witness spoke to us in profound and moving ways on the importance of having direct government action to protect culture and heritage in the changing world of global deal making.
In Montreal Mr. Peter Sandmark from the Independent Cinema and Video Alliance said:
I had one comment because I haven't heard mentioned the multilateral agreement on investment. Now if that were signed, these co-production treaties that require foreign crews to hire Canadian technicians and so on would be illegal if I understand correctly the interpretation of it, and therefore foreign productions could come in here and would not have to hire any Canadians and could take advantage of tax credits because they would have to be treated like nationals, same thing.
At the same meeting Mr. Robert Pilon, vice-president for public affairs for the Quebec Alliance for the Record, Performance and Video Industries, said:
If Canada gives in on this [magazine issue] today, we will all suffer. If the Americans get a victory on this issue tomorrow they will be attacking our support for the film sector, and the day after that they will be challenging us on books and our Canadian content on the radio.
These are individuals, business people, artists and all are concerned Canadians. Their message to me was not to negotiate behind closed doors. They want the federal government to protect and promote Canadian culture and heritage.
Mr. Pilon had it right, magazines are the line in the sand. We let it slip and we will all do it at our own peril.
Bill C-55 is a glimmer of hope, just a glimmer, that the Liberals will for once follow their words with some actions.
If they are serious about protecting culture they should proclaim this bill. If they want to protect our Canadian industries they should go to the WTO table and do it there. They should go back to our NAFTA partners and get the retaliation sections of the cultural carve-out removed. They should work with the other countries in favour of cultural exemptions, like the Europeans, and take on the world.
Our artists are good at taking on the world. I hope our government will follow the example.